Apple’s Second Innings: What Does the iConic Arrival Have in Store for India?

Apple store has finally made its way to India, and it is seriously creating quite a roar. Although Apple products have been sold in India for years on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, and Croma, and through authorised resellers, the company officially launched its online retail store in the world’s second-largest smartphone market, i.e., India in 2020. The highly anticipated store launch is already breaking records as one of the most eco- friendly locations worldwide, powered by 100% renewable energy- now that’s what I call a power move. That’s not all. Apple is also promoting women’s empowerment in India by underscoring job creation. The brand certainly knows how to tap into the leading concerns and grab the headlines. Furthermore, the staff can even communicate in over 20 languages. I quite like the multilingualism and cultural diversity surfacing here.

The big move comes at a time when the smartphone major gears up to ramp up local manufacturing in sync with the Indian government’s Make in India initiative. The premium Indian consumer is maturing and spending more, especially at the premium end which makes India the next big growth market for Apple. I strongly believe that India is poised to become a global manufacturing hub for the brand in no time. Why? Well, for those who don’t know, India has somewhat become quite the hotspot for Apple’s production needs; it has transpired as a prime contender in Apple’s quest to reduce manufacturing dependence on China, and the tech giant was already assembling its flagship iPhone 14 and older models in India to fulfil the purpose. As part of Apple’s manufacturing operations, the company is setting up its biggest plant in the country, at Hosur near Bengaluru, and even outsourcing the manufacturing of iPhone enclosures to Tata Electronics. And let’s not forget about the electronics giants- Foxconn, Wistron, and Pegatron- in southern India, who are all approved under the government’s smartphone PLI scheme. The entire shift may be time-seeking, but it’s going to be fruitful, with umpteen economic growth opportunities in India’s basket.

India’s unwavering demand makes it a no-brainer for the tech giant. The exports from Apple have increased and India has evidently become a focused market for Apple. But with India manufacturing the products, will we see a decrease in prices for Apple products in the nation? That’s the million-dollar question. Take Mercedes-Benz, for example – they have a manufacturing plant in India, but their prices remain competitive with BMW, which is mostly imported. So, will Apple be willing to risk its premium positioning by lowering prices? Or are they trying to bring price parity to all countries? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure – Apple’s foray into the Indian market gives both a serious competitive edge to become global players.

When it comes to exclusive store outlets, we all know Apple doesn’t mess around. Their landmark stores are world-renowned, and I reckon they’re bringing the same magic to India. After all, Apple flagship stores are the ultimate masterstroke when it’s about reaching out to customers. The tech brand has 522 stores across 25 countries and regions worldwide. But why is this happening now in India? There’s no surprise in that the Indian market is growing aggressively, consumer behaviour is rapidly evolving, and demand for Apple products is off the charts. Although the launch was long due, it was majorly delayed for 2 reasons- One, because of India’s Foreign Direct Investment policy that once restricted the launch but later the ‘30% of the sourcing should be done locally’ clause was relaxed. Second, plans getting halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. But now is finally the time. In today’s digital world, smart devices are a must-have, and Apple’s ecosystem is top-notch. In fact, in the past 2-3 years, the affinity for the brand’s products has significantly risen. It’s no wonder people are clamouring to get their hands on these gadgets – for some, it’s a style statement, while for others, it’s simply a must-have utility, but the fact remains that people are buying.

In 2019, Apple only had a measly 1% share of the smartphone market in India and currently, it holds a 3% share of the market. Interestingly, things are looking up – experts predict that by the end of 2023, that number will rise to a whopping 5%. Focusing on the intricacies, Apple’s market share in the nation may be low but if we consider the price point, earlier it was the only renowned player in the premium segment, with the lion’s share of the market. Fast forwarding to today, Apple is facing stiff competition from the likes of Samsung and Oppo, who are bringing their path-breaking innovations to the table. So, in my opinion, it’s crucial for the California-based brand to maintain and grow its market share in the premium segment, which means some serious strategic positioning.

When it comes to mobile phone exports from India, Apple and Samsung have been the leading players. In fact, Apple made history in December 2022 by becoming the first company to export smartphones worth $1 billion (Rs 8100 crore) in just one month from India – thereby overtaking Samsung. Now that’s massive. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the planned quarterly revenue record had grown strong double digits year over year.
As a matter of fact, the adoption of Apple hardware, including iPhones and Macs has witnessed a gradual rise resulting in India becoming a lucrative cardinal market for Apple. In the past, India had to wait weeks for the latest Apple hardware launch, but not anymore – the world’s largest democracy is now part of the first phase launch, alongside other countries like USA, UK, and Dubai. Intriguing. That’s the progress that India strives for.

While there have always been other Apple Premium Authorised resellers, the official store doesn’t need any licensing and has the potential to enhance the overall experience of being in an Apple ecosystem, which certainly can solidify the brand image for all Apple loyalists. Apple’s retail stores have globally set an unparalleled standard in terms of consumer experience, discount offers, trade-in schemes, staff knowledge and expertise, and service standards, beyond products. With the store opening, satisfactory end-to-end user experience, enticing personalised services, and top-notch service standards, it’s all under one roof now.

Moving on, in the US, Refurbished iPhones are an extremely common phenomenon, maybe because they own the supply chain. Furthermore, the easy exchange mechanism, return and refund policy are also utterly impressive. Indian Apple aficionados who are aware of these services must be eagerly looking forward to the expansion of such facilities in India with the big launch (including me). However, only time shall reveal whether these services will make it to India. These are only presumptions.

While India has already been exporting Apple products, this sensational launch opens doors to a house of new opportunities for the nation, along with incredible brand-boosting for Apple. The Apple BKC and Apple Saket flagship stores are undeniably pivotal to turbocharging Apple’s future growth in the Indian market. Although the stores have just been unveiled, I am excited to witness the Apple revolution in India. What about you?

(MRTech | FinTech | RuralTech | EV | RetailTech | AaaS)